Insect Management: Protecting Against Infestation
Worldwide, insects are a major cause of crop damage and yield loss. In fact, they can reduce crop output by 30 percent or more every year if left unchecked. We conduct innovative research in plant science and agricultural technology to help farmers protect their crops from damaging insects.
Insect Resistant Plants
Biotechnology is used to transfer beneficial genes directly into plants without the longer process of trial and error associated with traditional breeding techniques. We use biotechnology to develop plants that resist insects.
At Monsanto, the most commonly used genetic sequences for encoding insect resistance come from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally-occurring bacterium. Plants containing these genetic sequences from Bt produce proteins that protect against specific insect pests. Many farmers, including organic farmers, also apply Bt bacteria as a biological pesticide to protect their crops from those same insects.
Researchers continue exploring how biotechnology can help farmers manage pests of all kinds. A perfect example is the Intacta RR2 PRO™ soybeans currently being used in South America. This soybean has been modified to protect against major, crop destroying pests, including velvetbean caterpillar, soybean looper, bean shoot borer, bollworm, and corn stalk borer, among others. Additionally, Intacta RR2 PRO™ soybeans are tolerant to glyphosate, making it easier for farmers to control weeds.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
The best way for growers to preserve the benefits and insect protection of biotechnology is to incorporate Integrated Pest Management (IPM) solutions. IPM is a strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as crop scouting and crop rotation, biological control, habitat manipulation like increased plant diversity through refuge areas, modification of cultural practices like changing irrigation or tilling methods, and use of resistant crop varieties. In addition, IPM can help preserve the effectiveness of beneficial traits because the farmer isn’t relying on one pest management technique to which pests may become resistant.
Insect Resistance Management (IRM)
We strive to work with Mother Nature, not against her, and part of that is recognizing that nature continually evolves. With that evolution comes the risk of insect resistance - insects that have developed a tolerance for the very crops that have been engineered to resist these destructive bugs. The development of insect resistance may be reduced with proper Insect Resistance Management (IRM) planning. Refuge, an area where crops without the insect-resistant gene are planted, is a key component of any IRM plan, and a regulatory requirement in some countries like the United States. By leaving non-resistant crops in the field, insects that feed on that crop remain susceptible to the gene. The lack of exposure to the gene in refuges means that there will be susceptible insects nearby to mate with any resistant insects that may emerge from the biotech crop.
To assist farmers in meeting refuge requirements and preserve the effectiveness of the Bt trait in their crops, Monsanto offers several Refuge-In-A-Bag (RIB) options. Instead of setting aside a structured refuge block or strip in their fields, farmers using RIB can plant their crop and refuge seeds at the same time from the same planter with only one pass through the field saving time and carbon emissions.
Crop Scouting Technology
Crop scouting, also known as field scouting, is the action of traveling through a crop field while making frequent stops to observe signs of emerging threats like insects, disease, and extreme weather. While this is normally done on foot, digital scouting tools can quickly give farmers a better idea of problem areas so they can formulate a plan for protecting the crop. Using drones, advanced sensors, and satellites, farmers can accumulate years’ worth of data to make more informed preparations ahead of each season and develop plans for addressing emerging challenges.
Explore The Life of a Crop Scout for more about crop scouting.
Seed treatments are applied directly to the seed before planting to help protect the seeds as they grow into seedlings and then plants from pests. By coating seeds with a thin layer of insecticide, fungicides, and microbials, we’re giving crops a greater chance for success from the start. Famers have the option to plant seeds within this protective shell to provide a highly precise method of crop protection.
Leveraging Microbes for Insect Protection
In one spoonful of soil, there are billions of microbes. These tiny organisms exist naturally in the soil and plants have always used them during growth. We’re exploring how to deploy these microbes through applying them directly to the seed prior to planting. The BioAg Alliance, a partnership between Monsanto and Novozymes, has created microbials which use beneficial fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms to help plants better absorb nutrients and ward off pests and disease. The use of microbials can supplement, or in some cases might even replace, chemistry-based options for protecting crops.
Learn more about Monsanto’s microbial products, visit www.acceleronsas.com.